Calafia has been welcoming visitors to downtown Turlock for over a decade, but the Amazon queen’s home has been brought into question — once again.
Former Turlock mayor and current mayoral candidate Brad Bates addressed the Park, Arts and Recreation Commission during its January meeting with a suggestion of moving the 14-foot fountain statue from its current home on the corner of Main and Market streets to a vacant piece of land 100 feet away.
Bates said that he thinks there could be a “higher and better use of the entrance to downtown” than the statue that he said is also a health and safety issue.
The statue — a bronze and ceramic sculpture/fountain — was created by Davis artist Donna Billick and was unveiled in June 2005. The public art piece was part of the Downtown Revitalization Plan, which saw the City of Turlock invest $7.5 million into transforming the rundown business district into the picturesque downtown area it is today complete with old-fashioned lampposts, park benches and planter boxes brimming with flowers. The Main and Market location was identified as the gateway to the downtown and the best place for the statue.
In his comments to the PAR Commission, Bates said the statue should be moved to a place where it isn’t accessible to passersby. He said that homeless individuals often use the fountain as a bathing source and then a trash receptacle. He also suggested his proposed location, on the corner of Main Street and Lander Avenue, would provide better visibility for the statue from approaching traffic and illumination.
Bates said that he brought this suggestion to the Commission of his own volition, and not on behalf of anyone else. As his comments were made during the public participation period of the meeting and not during an agendized item, Commission members were unable to discuss his suggestion. Commissioner Brent Bohlender requested to have the item placed on the agenda for the PARC’s Feb. 14 meeting, however, it does not appear on that meeting’s agenda.
This is not the first time the issue of moving Calafia has been brought before the City of Turlock Arts Commission.
In 2012, the Turlock Arts Commission considered a number of alternate locations for the statue following a request by Matt Swanson who had just purchased the Enterprise Building, which is immediately adjacent to Calafia. Swanson told the City at that time he felt the statue’s size overwhelms the building and draws attention away from potential businesses that might locate there.
The Arts Commission ultimately voted to recommend the statue not be relocated.
“The art piece Calafia located on Main Street in downtown Turlock should stay in its original location as it was intended,” wrote TAC members in their recommendation. “We feel that yielding to a property owner’s request could subject public art to the discretion of individual property owners’ tastes and desires, and would erode the original purpose and goals of the Downtown Plan.”
Swanson began renovations on the historic Enterprise Building in 2016, with plans to modernize the interior, restore the exterior to its original 1900's look, while also developing the second story space. It’s unknown at this time if Swanson will try and get the statue moved again.